Falling Out of Love With a Dream

Since I was a teenager, I have been in love with China. The culture, the history, the language.

Everything about China enamored me.

Even the politics intrigued me.

In college, I minored in Chinese and spent a summer abroad in Beijing.

It was more than I dreamed possible.

It became my first love. Trumping other passions. Even boyfriends.

I dreamed of working and living in mainland China. Of surpassing proficiency in Mandarin and becoming fluent.

But circumstances prevented me from getting back there. A back injury that didn’t allow for overseas travel.

A life altered by one accident.

But I remained faithful. I loved China. I promised myself one day I would go back there.

And maybe even move there.

Dreams are beautiful like that. They give you something to hope for. Something to strive for. Something better than today. Even if it always remains in tomorrow.

A few years ago, my world changed again. A brilliant doctor gave me an artificial disc in my spine. Suddenly, my spine was healthy again. I could travel abroad again.

And I planned a summer trip to China. On the horizon. A definite possibility again.

I practiced my Chinese. I read all my guidebooks and I returned to my first love, China.

There were some wonderful moments on the trip. There were some really awful ones too.

I had to face the fact that China and I had changed. We weren’t the same as when we first fell in love.

It was not the place I visited 13 years ago. I was not the girl who climbed dangerous sections of the Great Wall.

I no longer wanted to live and work there. I no longer dreamed that dream.

I’d fallen out of love with a dream that sustained me for two decades.

It left a void inside. A place that may not be filled for a long time.

Falling out of love with a dream hurts.

But I’m grateful for the dreaming. Because I got to see China. I got to speak Chinese. The dream gave me so much.

I will mourn that dream like an almost fiance.

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43 Responses to Falling Out of Love With a Dream

  1. La La says:

    This mirrors my feelings about England when/after I studied abroad there 7 years ago. I fell in love with it and dream about it always. I probably bore people to tears with all my talking. I majored in English with a British Literature concentration.

    I’m going back this October. I hope to feel the same about it, but I know I’ve grown.
    Thank you for writing this. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lauren, it’s great to know someone else has had a long, passionate love of a country. ๐Ÿ™‚ I used to watch people’s eyes glaze over when I talked about China. It took effort to stop. When it’s part of your major, you know it’s serious.

      I hope you have a wonderful trip. And I hope things change in a good way and your appreciation alters but your love remains. And if by chance it doesn’t, we can always commiserate together.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Jenny says:

    This was a beautiful post and rings true with me and probably everyone I know. I know some of my dreams may not hold the fantasy I believe they do, but, like you, without dreams, what do we have?

    I must say, I’m very ignorant about China. What/where was that last picture taken and what is it supposed be of?

    • Thank you so much! I couldn’t put it better “without dreams, what do we have?”

      The last photo is the terracotta soldiers outside Xi’an. It was part of the tomb of the first emperor of China. He believed you carried forward what you brought with you into the afterlife. So his tomb had an entire army of terracotta soldiers. It’s pretty amazing. Each soldier is unique in facial features, hair style, even their calves are shaped differently. They think the statues were modeled after his actual army.

  3. PJ Sharon says:

    Kourtney, dreams–like people–evolve. EVERYTHING in life serves a purpose and ultimately leads us to who we were meant to be. Follow your dreams but don’t be afraid of the detours. Thay can take you to wonderful places and touch you in unexpected ways. Our old dreams are always a part of who we are, but new dreams will lead us to our next great adventure.

    Mourn the loss of your dream and then focus on the journey ahead, just don’t stop dreaming…

    • Thanks PJ! I guess this dream just felt life sustaining. Like my eyes would always be green and I’d always be in love with China. Those were constants. Traits people described me by. And suddenly it changed. I identified so deeply with the dream, it’s like a piece of me left.

      I still have everything I learned and the memories and they are precious to me. And my writing is still here. Thank goodness. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Great words of wisdom. I will see what new dream comes. It’s like a space opened up in my heart, maybe there is something better on the horizon. I like the idea of a detour. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Wow, I just really felt that. Very nice. My cousin from Edmonton has traveled all over. He too had a love affair with China and found it waning.

    • Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ It tore at me for a while. I finally found the words to explain what was going on. It’s hard when your love alters. I can’t get excited about anything China related anymore. Not the history, the language, the culture, the politics. It was such a passion and it’s been snuffed out. Maybe someday, it will reignite in some form. But for now, I guess that dream is dead.

      I hope your cousin has found a new place that he can fall in love with. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. crubin says:

    Over time both our dreams and our selves change. Although it may be hard to let some dreams go, hopefully new ones will take their place, giving us something to look forward to. A life without dreams becomes dull and meaningless pretty quickly.

    Lovely post and lovely photos.

    • Thanks Carrie! I always expected China to have a permanent lock on my heart. Part of the reason I studied Chinese was to translate the Dao De Jing when I retired. (Yup, in high school I planned that far ahead with this dream). Besides writing, it’s the only dream that endured most of my life. I never expected it to change because my love for China was so deep inside me. I’ve had my short term dreams change, but never something that felt like the core of me.

      It will take some time to adjust. I hope a new dream will sprout up inside me. Until then I still have my writing. Thank goodness.

      Dreams are essential. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you liked the pictures.

  6. themadgayman says:

    I originally always wanted to visit Australia. Those warm temperatures, those attractive accents, and it’s surrounded by ocean. Then, slowly, I fell out of love with going there. Around my late teens, I realized I wanted to visit Ireland. Gaelic intrigued me beyond all languages, and the folklore alone left me with years of stories in my head. So I understand what you mean when you fall out of love with your dream, especially someone as dedicated to you. For God’s sake, you learned Chinese! I can only hope to learn Gaelic (a dying language last I heard). I hope you find a new love, a new dream (which I’m sure you will).

    • It’s really wonderful to hear you had a similar experience. And to be understood by someone else. ๐Ÿ™‚ My parents looked at me like I was a drama queen when I was bummed out about China. It’s hard to explain how deeply ingrained a dream becomes and what it pulls out of you when it passes on. I’m glad when your dream left, you found another one. I hope you get to Ireland. Gaelic sounds like a fascinating language. I’ve read a bit on Celtic folklore and it’s so fascinating. Good luck! Thanks so much. I’m hoping that happens too. But for now, I really appreciate knowing I’m not alone and that you did find a new love and a new dream.

  7. It’s strange how a place can change so much. I’ve never been to China. I had the opposite happen with New York, I loved it even more when I went back years later and I’d love to go again. But here’s to a new dream for you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It really is strange. But my perspective and my personality also changed so much in 13 years. There are very few places I can go back to in life.

      I also have a long love affair with NY. I hated it as a teenager, moved there after college, fled there after 9-11, returned after grad school, and lived there 6 more years. Then I left when I was laid off and moved to Connecticut with my parents. I still love to visit. It’s the only city I can keep returning to. It always feels like home.

      Thanks Victoria! I’m lucky I still have my writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Lisa Hayes says:

    I like this, Kourtney. A very honest post.

    • Thanks Lisa. It was something that left me in a funk for a while. After I got back from Asia, it took me a while to process that something so essential to who I was altered. I couldn’t articulate it for a while. Maybe it was too fresh. Too unexpected. Too much to deal with. In the back of my head I knew something really important had shifted, but if I didn’t say it, I could almost pretend it didn’t.

  9. cookiemomma says:

    One of my dreams since middle school has been to visit China. Not sure about living there, but I definitely will visit one day and the Egyptian Pyramids. Great post

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting! It’s a very unique country and definitely worth visiting. So many cultural and historical sites. I really enjoyed Hong Kong as well. Glad you enjoyed the post. ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh the pyramids, those are definitely something I’d like to see one day too.

  10. jmmcdowell says:

    I’m not sure I can add more to what’s already been said! Realizing the dream isn’t what it once was really is like waking up and realizing you no longer love the person with you “that way” anymore.

    But just as we often find love again when we least expect it, a new dream slips into our lives without us realizing it. And then one day you become aware of it. And it carries you forward on a new adventure.

    This was such an honest and thought-provoking post!

    PSโ€”an exhibit of the Chinese Warriors came through the National Geographic Museum in DC in 2010. It was an amazing sight. You could actually see the figures much closer than you can in the Xi’an Museum.

    • JM, Thanks so much for your uplifting words. I’m hoping a new dream comes along this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I was disappointed by the lack of any up close statues in the tomb area. The guidebook said there were several on display but they cost extra and were impossible to get to with the hordes of Chinese tourists there. THere was no line, just elbow jostling and shoving. I couldn’t deal with it. I went to a museum in Xi’an that said it had some on display up close too, but the line was a minimum 3 hour wait to get in. I just gave up at that point. Glad you got to enjoy the warriors. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Dreams are so fascinating, right? It sounds to me like you kept dreaming, but the destination and form shifted. I used to think my dream was an acting career, until I realized it was the telling of stories and creative expression I truly loved.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Kourtney. We can all learn from your insight.

    • Thanks for the kind words August! I think I needed that dream to get through my back problems. It definitely sustained me then. That’s so cool how your dream shifted. Maybe my dream will end with my book published in Chinese? ๐Ÿ™‚

      And I’m glad you are a part of my journey. I’ve learned so much from your blog posts.

  12. It's the little things that make life great.berry says:

    Kour

    There will be other dreams. Last night I dreamt I was in a play and did not know my lines. I thought I could go on stage and make it up. But I was so scared. So I didn’t do the play. And I so wanted to. But I will continue to dream. Cause that’s what life is about. And you too will dream again. Be in love with a dream.

    • Thanks Berry. I’m sorry you didn’t get to do your play. Even if it was just in your dreams. I hear you on being afraid to pursue your dreams, even in your dreams. That’s really deep. I’m going to see what the world gives me. I spent so much time and energy on China, it’s a bit nice to have that extra time to devote to writing.:)

  13. It's the little things that make life great.berry says:

    Wow. Lots of comments. You struck a chord with so many on this topic. Go girl!!!!

    • Berry, I find the things I am most loathe to talk about are the ones people really respond to. I like being able to take a tough experience and make something useful out of it. But it usually takes a few weeks to months to get to that point. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for all your support. You’ve been my biggest and most consistent commenter for two years now!

  14. Marc Schuster says:

    “Wow!”

    (I actually just said this, out loud, when I finished reading your post. And I don’t usually talk back to my computer. So… Wow! Wonderful, insightful, and moving post!)

    • Thanks Marc! That’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten on here. And it’s totally cool to talk to your computer. Mine gets lectures about how slow it loads pages all the time. ๐Ÿ™‚

      It was something that hurt to talk about and I couldn’t really wrap my mind around for months. But then I realized if I wrote about it maybe I could make some sense of it and get it out of my head.

  15. neelthemuse says:

    Insightful post Kourtney….your experience teaches people to move on….and not get stuck on things we loved once upon a time.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting! It took me a while to admit that I’d fallen out of love and to accept it. Sometimes dreams become so essential to who we are the loss of them feels like a loss of us. I’m grateful to my fellow bloggers for their support. They are the ones that reminded me I can move on. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Cat Forsley says:

    HI :)THIS IS MY FAVE OF YOURS THAT I HAVE READ THUS FAR- I SAW IT THE OTHER DAY ON EMAIL —— NOTIFICATIONS —- AND I THOUGHT ———- KOURTNEY IS REALLY DOING SOME INTENSIVE LETTING GO ——– THIS IS PURE WOW ….PURE GENIUS IN IT’S DEEP HONESTY AND TRUTH ………
    I LIVED IN ASIA AS A KID——- HONG KONG — SO YOU TOOK ME BACK —– AND I RELIVED YOUR DREAM WITH YOU – NOW THAT IS GREAT WRITING KOURTNEY , RAW REAL AND UNABASHEDLY BEAUTIFUL …..
    WOW WOW WOW ๐Ÿ™‚
    Cat xx

    • Aw Cat, that is such a beautiful comment. I’m so glad I took you back and you got to relive the dream with me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much!

      It was so painful, I couldn’t really post about it untiL I’d had some time to sit with it. It still stings, but admitting it helped me. The things you keep quiet about have the most power over you.

      That’s amazing that you lived in Hong Kong as a kid. Wow. I really enjoyed that city. It was a a part of my China dream to travel to Asia and I got to do that last summer. I loved my time in Hong Kong, Thailand, and South Korea–the best parts of my summer trip were all there. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Cat Forsley says:

        ๐Ÿ™‚ HEY :))))
        YES – RELIVING THE DREAM 0 THE JOURNEY WITH YOU ——- THAT IS WHY YOU ARE A GREAT ARTIST K- BECAUSE YOU TAKE PEOPLE ON YOUR JOURNEY — YES I WAS 6-9 IN HONG KONG – AMAZING – I REMEMBER IT LIKE YESTERDAY ……. ๐Ÿ™‚ VIVID MEMORIES ETCHED….
        I AGREE THAT SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO SIT WITH IT FOR A WHILE – TIL THE HEART IS READY TO SHARE – AND WHEN WE SHARE FROM THAT PLACE – WE MOVE OTHERS ——
        THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING AN ARTISTIC HUMAN BEING – I THINK ๐Ÿ™‚ – IS TO TRAVEL ALONG ON JOURNEYS TOGETHER …
        AND FEEL THROUGH WHAT THE ARTIST FEELS ..
        THAT IS WHAT I FIND MOST BEAUTIFUL ABOUT ART – IT’S NOT SINGULAR ——-
        IT’S UNIVERSAL ———–
        AMAZING AMAZING POST ๐Ÿ™‚
        MY FAVE THUS FAR ๐Ÿ™‚
        ๐Ÿ™‚ XXC

        • *Blushing* Aw thanks! You are so right “THATโ€™S THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING AN ARTISTIC HUMAN BEING โ€“ I THINK โ€“ IS TO TRAVEL ALONG ON JOURNEYS TOGETHER โ€ฆ”
          Thanks for another insightful comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Cat Forsley says:

            YOU ARE SO WELCOME ๐Ÿ™‚ IT’S THE TRUTH —— CUZ I TRAVELED WITH YOU —– IN THIS POST – AND I THINK THAT’S ONE OF THE BEST ASPECTS OF BEING A HUMAN BEING ——- EMPATHIZING AND BEING ABLE TO RELATE AND OPEN OUR HEARTS TO OTHERS ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Empathy and realizing we aren’t alone are such powerful things. I’m glad my post touched you and took you somewhere I’d been. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Cat Forsley says:

            GOOD MORNING —–
            ๐Ÿ™‚
            WE ALWAYS THINK WE ARE ALONE …..
            BUT HOW COULD WE BE – ?
            YOU KNOW ?
            I AM REALISTIC – YES WE ARE ALONE SOMETIMES IN OUR MINDS —– BUT IF WE KINDA DUMP THE BRAIN OUT – THEN WE SEE THAT ALL HUMAN EXPERIENCES ARE INTERCONNECTED ……..
            YES – IT TOOK ME SOMEWHERE MISS K ๐Ÿ™‚
            IT TOOK ME BACK TO HONG KONG FROM THE AGES OF 6 – 9 – WHERE THE WORLD WAS NEW EVERY DAY ๐Ÿ™‚ AND GUESS WHAT —– IT IS BECOMING THAT – AGAIN .
            SO YOU SEE – YOUR WRITING IS UNIVERSAL ๐Ÿ™‚
            CHEERS ๐Ÿ™‚
            CXX

          • I think within our our minds we are alone. No one can access it but us. But when we communicate, we bridge that gap momentarily. We can connect and see how much we have in common. Humanity has many common threads. It’s finding one and following it that can lead to the best connections between people. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Great post. I love England, which is where I’m from originally (my family moved to the US when I was seven). I’m always plotting and trying to figure out ways to maybe someday purchase a home there. I’m happy to say that my love for the place only grows each time I go back.

  18. Emmie Mears says:

    Awesome post, Kourtney! For me it’s always Scotland, and year after year, that remains the dream — it just hovers out of reach. I feel like that’s in the same ballpark as the void you feel when the love disappears, to have it obtainable in theory but hampered by reality.

    • Thanks Emmie! Very similar. But I’d add that it feels like something goes out of you. I’ve loved it so long that it’s a part of me. I hope your dream of Scotland continues and that you get to make it a reality and that the reality is even better than the dream. ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you think?